June 29, 2016
Ah summer. It’s my favorite time of the year, even though I don’t have the entire season off like when I was a kid. I remember being outside from daybreak until the streets lights came on, and sometimes even after. We used to ride our bikes and pretend we were cars. Blue bikes got to be police; a wagon tied to another was an ambulance. And then there was the peculiar ice cream truck. Why in the world was a turned-over tricycle that we pedaled with our arms an ice cream truck?
We’d spin the tires and pretend ice cream was coming out of them. Despite the fact that it looked nothing like our favorite Good Humor Man vehicle, to us, it was an ice cream truck. I have no idea why, but I know I’m not the only one who did this. Other adults have told me they did the same thing, though it really makes no sense at all. But, it didn’t matter us – it was an ice cream truck, plain and simple. I like to think our childish minds were simply being innovative.
Back in the day we used all sorts of things in ways they weren’t intended. Books covered with a tissue became a doll bed. A wadded up sweatshirt became home plate. An old box served as a spaceship, or a house, or any number of things. Our young minds simply took things we had and turned them into things we wanted.
Children are the same all over the world. When I traveled to Malawi, our group made friends with some local children who had crafted a soccer ball out of plastic bags. They also made cars out of milk bottles and corncobs. Even with toys made from discarded things, their smiles and laughter were contagious. A child’s mind is rich with endless creativity and joy.
But sometimes using something in an unintended way isn’t always good. In Uganda, wires stripped from discarded tires are being turned into snares that poachers are using to capture wildlife. Often these snares end up killing or maiming animals, posing a serious challenge to conservation efforts.
Tutilo Mudumba, an MSU fisheries and wildlife doctoral student and Robert Montgomery, assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, have developed an initiative that instead turns these snares into toys and works of art that can be sold to support the community. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Snares to Wares, to learn more about the awesome project and watch a couple of fantastic videos shot on location. It's really cool stuff that shows how these Spartans are improving lives by thinking differently.
MSU faculty members are also using things in new ways in Detroit. They’re using music and lyrics to explore literacy as part of the Verses program, funded in part by the Marshall Mathers Foundation and offered by the Community Music School. The students are mentored in hip-hop, spoken word poetry and music technology by a faculty that includes a professional poet and Fulbright scholar, an acclaimed Detroit techno artist, a folk singer and a recording engineer. Watch the video in the FACULTY VOICE: Exploring literacy through lyrics and song, to learn more about this unique program that teaches kids in a whole new way.
As a student in the Campus Archeology program, Amy Michael is used to trying to figure out how artifacts were used in their day. Though it’s not that hard to figure out how Mable, a doll head and the star of a recent excavation, might have been used in the 1880s. But, what else can she tell us? Read the STUDENT VIEW: Mable, take a bow, to learn more.
Often, it’s not about how things are supposed to be used, but what the art of the possibility is. Spartans are masterful at looking at problems in new ways and finding innovative solutions no one has thought of. Spartans are open-minded, curious, smart, resourceful and never stop exploring. Who will make creative discoveries that will change the world?
Photo of a young Magomero, Malawi boy proudly displaying his soccer ball, made of plastic garbage bags, by Kurt Stepntiz.